Michael Mansell is an Aboriginal lawyer and activist who has dedicated his life to social, political and legal reform to improve the lives and social standing of Aborigines.
He petitioned the Queen for land rights in 1976. Seen as the head of the Tasmanian Aboriginal movement since the 1970s, Mansell led the land rights movement and gained a high profile by publicly confronting the myth of the extinction of his people. Confronting bigoted attitudes, he used his fair skin and blue eyes to assert the survival of Aboriginal identity. He campaigned for museums in Tasmania to surrender their collections of the Aboriginal dead and in 1983 the Tasmanian Parliament legislated Aboriginal community wishes. He campaigned throughout Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States in 1985 for repatriation of all Aboriginal human remains.
He enrolled in law at the University of Tasmania in 1978. During this period, he played senior football with North Hobart in the TFL and led Tasmanian Aboriginal football squads at the national carnivals.
He was admitted as a legal practitioner in 1984. He ran a legal practice in Hobart from 1986 until 1996, working exclusively for Aboriginals. Mansell was named Tasmanian ‘Aboriginal of the Year’ in 1987.
He was Legal Director of Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre until 2013.
In 1993, the national gathering of Aboriginals at Eva Valley in the Northern Territory chose Mansell as one of the delegates to negotiate the Native Title Act with Prime Minister Keating. He was instrumental in obtaining land rights in Tasmania from 1995 to 2003, recognition of cultural fishing and hunting rights in 1995, and compensation for the stolen generations in 2006.
In 2016, he was a consultant to Aboriginal Affairs Victoria in developing a State treaty.
He leaves it all behind each year to traditionally harvest mutton birds.
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